Elderly ex-pats who have settled in Spain make up about one in seven of all British residents living in the EU, new figures suggest.
Some 119,400 British citizens aged 65 or over are estimated to be living in Spain – 15% of all British people who have made their home in another mainland EU country.
A further 29,300 are in France and 14,900 in Germany.
In total, 784,900 British citizens live in the EU, not including the UK and Ireland.
The figures have been compiled by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and are based on a 2017 snapshot of long-term residents – people who intend to or have lived abroad for one year or longer.
Jay Lindop, deputy director of migration statistics at the ONS, said: “Spain continues to be the most desirable location for the three-quarters of a million Brits living in the EU.”
“However, the EU as a whole is not the most popular destination for British ex-pats, with more than half preferring to live in English-speaking countries such as Australia, New Zealand, US and Canada.”
The figures estimate the overall number of British residents living in Spain to be 293,500 – 37% of the total across the EU (excluding the UK and Ireland).
Some 152,900 (19%) are in France, 96,500 (12%) in Germany, 45,300 (6%) in the Netherlands and 27,200 (3%) in Italy.
Ireland is excluded from the figures because of what the ONS describes as the “complex” status of Irish and British citizenships, including many dual nationals and an unknown number of people who have rights to citizenship in both countries but have not yet exercised one of them.
The rights of British ex-pats once the UK has left the European Union has been one of the key topics in Brexit negotiations.
Both sides have provisionally agreed to allow Britons settling in other EU countries during the so-called transition period – from the date of the UK’s exit on March 29 2019 to the end of 2020 – the same rights as those currently in place.
This will also apply to EU citizens arriving in the UK during the same period.